Rats

This is my confession. Since I would like this to be a journal of beautiful things, I offer to you an account of the humble house rat. An unusual choice for a beautiful thing, yes, but read on. Rats are freaky little buggers. We’ve had the privilege recently of seeing their work, when a family of what could only be circus-performing Rattus norvegicus found an inexplicable way into our office kitchen.

At first, we thought they’d slipped in under the back door, where a telltale arc had been gnawed from the wooden frame. So we blocked that up with a plank of hard wood. They ate right through that, so we turned to metal. This stopped the biggest of them getting in (the average dropping size dropped by a good centimetre). But the next day, we found a hole in the rug at the kitchen door, and below it, a hole right through the cement floor. Really, I am not kidding. The cement floor.

To make matters worse, there was no part of the kitchen they couldn’t reach. The top of the fridge, into our very large dustbin, we even found a rat dropping on top of the sealed ventilation shaft nearly two metres up the wall.

There is a point in the process of rat-wonderment when you think that perhaps they are an entirely superior species. If we had their powers at our size, we’d be X-Men. I saw a rat dash under our fridge just the other day. I squealed. It was humiliating. But as my heart rate slowed I remembered seeing, through the blur of my utter panic, that he’d slipped under the fridge as if he was no thicker than a credit card.

When they did their work, it was with a determination and efficiency I have only otherwise seen in teenage boys looking for sex. They finished whole loaves of bread, chewed through our thick plastic hot-chocolate container, and polished off a box of breakfast oats through a two-centimetre hole we didn’t spot for days.

The next evolutionary generation of rats will have one major advantage: they will clean up after themselves. We thought long and hard about what to do about our rat problem. We even considered letting it continue in return for catching them on video, so we could learn how to travel the equivalent of five stories straight up in the air without using our opposable thumbs. But eventually, one morning as I cleared droppings from our crockery, I finally believed that the quiet anaemia of an anticoagulant death might not be so bad for Rattus norvegicus after all. If you haven’t been there yourself, you just wouldn’t understand.

It’s been five days since we first left poison for the little raiders. They devoured it, and it would have taken till now to bring their brief magic to a stop. Last night I put down some fresh nasty, and this morning it was undisturbed. The sign of a successful ridding. Theirs was a brief and remarkable visit. And I wish often that they had thought not to be so rude as to poop on my cups. I have not been so repeatedly astonished as I have in the presence of our rats. Here’s to them. Sleep well, my little ones.

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